Move over dairy milk. While certain alternative milks like almond, cashew and soy have been around for a while, non-nut milks are now muscling in on the market. They’re made from plants like oats, hemp, quinoa and peas. Dairy analyst Matt Gould says, “The fastest growing section of these alternative milks are kinds of things that really didn't exist 10 years ago.”
Gould explains that millennials are driving the trend. Demand for alternative milk products jumped 10.5% in the past few years, while regular cow’s milk dropped 1.5%. Experts say concern about lactose intolerance, hormones,nut allergies, and a vegan lifestyle are key reasons why. But, how do these new, non-nut, non-dairy milks stack up to cow’s milk, nutritionally? While quinoa, hemp and oat milk on average have less protein – pea milk has about the same. And most are fortified with Vitamin D.
But, Gould says. there are other differences you can see just looking at the labels. “Traditional cow milk has about as clean of a label as you can get. There's milk and usually vitamin D added and that's it.” Non-dairy alternatives often have additives like can sugar, and oil, gums, and other ingredients. Gould says, “The labels get quite long because you know you need stabilizers and then you often need other things to try to make them taste better.”
Nicole Cabanez decided to experiment with the types of milk she drinks. She says, “In my daily routine, I include milk plants.As far as taste, Nicole’s says she’s not yet a fan. “I think when you fall into the trap of trying to taste like milk you end up tasting worse.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says as far as pros and cons, “Each product stands out in different ways.” And, it recommends consumers “rotate the milk alternatives as they have different nutritional properties” – some might have sugars, for example, while others might have more salts.” Nicole agrees. She says, “I think that you know there is value in experimenting.”
In many cases, the non-nut milk products are more expensive than both cow’s milk and the nut-based brands. Though, dairy analyst Gould predicts, the price might eventually come down